Police support tracking system

Waitaki police are still firmly behind the use of a radio tracking system intended to help locate dementia patients who may have been reported missing, although Auckland police recently scaled back their involvement with a similar project in the North Island.

The WandaTrak system, which sends out radio signals from electronic pendants to help locate people identified as ''at risk'' of getting lost, was introduced in Oamaru a year ago, after the Oamaru Elim Church raised $3700 for the Alzheimer's Society to buy the tracking equipment.

Senior Constable Darrin Low, of Hampden, said the tracking system would still be implemented with police help in North Otago.

''We're still using it at the moment. We have still got one person using one of the pendants, which is a good thing, but at this stage we are certainly committed to it down here.''

Snr Const Low said the Waitaki police's database provided information on those who had chosen to wear a pendant, and if a patient did go missing, the police would be the first point of contact.

''We work closely with the Alzheimer's group and if they have a person who needs a pendant, they do their homework and let us know.''

Once police were notified they would check the database and notify North Otago Search and Rescue, who would send out a trained crew to search for the patient, he said.

Auckland police recently decided not to pay a civilian support worker to check batteries contained in pendants, but Auckland City District Police operations manager Inspector Peter Gibson said contrary to ''confusing'' television news reports, they had not pulled the plug on their administrative functions.

''We are still loading all the information we receive from Landsar; what we are not doing is getting involved with Landsar to issue the pendant to patients, checking that the batteries are charged etc.''

He said the tracking system was a ''valuable tool'' for police, but added that the Red Cross, Landsar and the Alzheimer's Society were also all involved in the tracking programme, and there were issues to be resolved.

''So really, there needs to be someone to take the lead.''

- andrew.ashton@odt.co.nz

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